My quest for Alaska brought me to the Sporting Woman and led to wonder.
Christopher and I spent 40 days in Alaska this past August and September celebrating his 40th birthday. Wanting the trip to be a gift, I needed a job. So, last December 19th Christopher unwrapped his birthday gifts opening a travel book on Alaska with my first The Sporting Woman paycheck inserted as a bookmark.
We spent the next eight months preparing for Alaska. Our itinerary began with a 5-day sea kayak trip in the Northwestern Fjord followed by a two-week backpack trip in Wrangell/St. Elias National Park wilderness. Having never camped for longer than three nights, three weeks of camping felt like both a physical and a mental challenge. We learned to kayak and stepped up our hiking mileage. I started reading Mardy Murie’s Two in the Far North. Christopher began Peter Jenkins’ Looking for Alaska. My fully loaded pack became my summer companion inviting comments when walking to work like, “hey, lady go to the mountains”!
My discovery – preparation does not necessarily make you prepared. Neither the training miles and weight, the reading, the planning, nor the gear can prepare you for a unique unknown. I knew what hiking 8 miles with a full pack feels like, I did not know what an 8-mile trek with a full pack in muskeg and tussock country would feel like. I knew to expect extreme weather yet was not prepared for the indifferent, harsh reality of never-ending sleet and freezing rain. The Colorado Rockies could not prepare me for the majestic scale and glacial grandeur of the rugged St. Elias range. My knowledge of Colorado tundra did not prepare me for the fragility and the intensity of the arctic tundra. Likewise, I was unprepared for the raw, forceful, primeval, mesmerizing sound of a calving tidal glacier.
Striving to be prepared, I ironically relished my lack of preparation. For isn’t that, at some level, the point. How can you truly and fully anticipate what you have yet to experience? In choosing the Alaska landscape, we sought fresh, unknown territory. Our trip embraced adventure and discovery.
And now, back at work, I look at each of you as you share your stories about training to run your first marathon, to participate in your first snowshoe outing, to hike your first fourteen-er, or to go to your first yoga class, with a renewed sense of appreciation for your commitment to experience something new and different. And I hope that you, like me, encounter unanticipated surprise, joy, and wonder along the way!